Navigating your career path (Part A)
Updated: May 5
Recent #coaching sessions with several women have focused on their #career pathways – they are wanting to get more focused on the kinds of jobs they want, rather than taking an ad hoc approach to getting their next job. This is something that resonates with me too. I went through a similar stage about five years ago when I knew that I wanted to get more focused on my coaching, mentoring and facilitation experience. This coincided with the time that I began thinking about establishing #FullFrameCoach.
When I have #careercoaching conversations with clients, colleagues and friends, there are a few topics that I refer to, to help the other person gain insights. These are all tools and techniques that I’ve learnt about and used personally. I will cover them briefly over two blogs.
My coaching approach is informed by #strengths theory – this is about focusing on maximising your strengths rather than improving your weaknesses. I was first introduced to this concept years before I started coaching by my good friend Kathy Jones. I still recommend the latest version of the book that Kathy gave to me: Strengths Finder 2.0 from @gallup. An unused copy of this book will give you a code to complete the online questionnaire and receive a report with your top five strengths.
When I received mine back in 2006 as a relatively junior project manager, I felt validated for the first time in my life. I understood what made me unique and why others didn’t think the way I did. Since then I’ve repeated the questionnaire – four out of my five strengths have stayed the same. The one that changed was a shift from ‘context’ (understanding the past to make sense of the present and future) to ‘strategic’ (being future focused). This makes perfect sense to me as I’ve developed in my career and had the freedom and responsibility to work strategically in the NHS.
People will often say that they have ‘strong values’ or that they are 'values driven'. But when they are probed about what those #values are, they can find it hard to describe them. The truth of the matter is, everyone has values. But when we have conflict, that can often be because of a clash in values. I’ve done a values inventory a few times in my career and most recently just last year. It was really helpful doing it again because my career and perspectives on life have changed since I last did it about ten years ago.
Taking some time out to do a #valuesinventory is a really useful technique to understand what you want to look for in your future role and the context in which that sits. There are plenty of lists of values that you can google. You might want to merge two or three lists together to get a fuller range of values in your inventory.
Take some time to highlight all of the values that resonate with you. You are likely to have lots and lots of them. Once you’ve done that exercise, group them into three to five themes. Once you’ve done the grouping, you can work out your strongest core value from each theme.
You might be able to do this task in one sitting, but I find it’s helpful to have a break once I’ve done the groupings. If I come back to it a day or two later, I find myself doing a sense check to see if I’ve grouped them ‘correctly’. At this point I will try to shortlist within the themes and come up with a core value for each theme. And once again, I will pause at this stage. Coming back to it again a day or two later helps me think ‘is that really the right core value for me?’ – as there are so many values that are really similar, it can take some time to tease them out. At the end of this process you will have no more than five core values that reflect your unique view of the world. This will help you consider the types of teams, organisations and/or sectors you wish to work in going forward.
A #skillsinventory is another useful task. Download a list of #skills and use different colours to mark up the ones that you are: a) good at and like, and b) good at but don’t like. Ask some people in your life who are close to you to do this exercise for you too. They could just use one colour to highlight what they think you’re good at.
When you choose to ask people, consider a full range not just work folk. Ask your family, friends, current and past colleagues, people you’ve studied and/or volunteered with, people from your community groups, people who’ve known you a long time and people who haven’t. Try to make your net as diverse as possible. This is because people will see you with a variety of perspectives, depending on the context in which you connect with them.
Once you’ve received these inventories back from people – now is the time to start adding up the ones that are listed in common and noticing any themes about who has said what. Are there skills others’ have said that you are good at but you hate doing? Were those skills related to what you were doing in life at the time? Are there skills that you do like doing that are associated with aspects of your life that bring joy?
What does all this mean in terms of your future career path? Don’t forget your strengths and values when you are mulling on your skills inventory. Once you’ve done all three tasks, you might like to find a creative way of summarising what you are finding out about yourself. Personally, I’m a mind mapper. Others like to write lists. You might want to journal (by writing or recording voice notes) about what you know now. The key thing here is to start consolidating what you’re noticing. This will help you start to get some focus.
Part B of this blog will be coming to you from Australia - we will look at career anchors, some psychometric tools and undertaking a competency based gap analysis.
Until next time, take good care.